December 19, 2005


”I shouted sayonara/It didn't mean goodbye” - Discovering Japan, Graham Parker & the Rumor
It all started with a phone call to my pal Craig.

In the aftermath of a failed engagement, I decided to call people for support, never mind the fact that I was several time zones away. I was hurting, and needed to reach out on that fateful Sunday afternoon in October. Luckily, after leaving several phone messages on other people's machines, I got Craig, who was always like a surrogate brother – his wife “chaperoned” a date I went on at a Dark Shadows convention, and Craig and I share a mutually warped sense of humor.

After talking through my major issue – whether to stay in Oregon and get a job there or move back to Chicago – it was Craig who came up with a compromise.

“Why not move to St. Louis?” he said. “There's a lot going on here, you can stay with us for awhile, and you won't have to move back to Chicago and feel like a failure.”

I considered his words, and after a few hours' reflection – and consulting with several of my Oregon friends – I begin looking for a job. Luckily, I found a listing for counselors at a now-closed treatment facility here in town, and submitted my resume. At the very least, I could learn how to face rejection from three states.

A few days later, I received a phone call from a young woman who worked for the treatment center. We spoke briefly, and over the phone, I came up with an imagined background – she was blonde, wore glasses, and lived with two cats. (And was not named either Jennifer or Amy, because in St. Louis, every female social worker/social service provider is named either Jennifer or Amy). After talking, I explained to her my situation (probably the most unprofessional thing I had done, although I attempted to be a gentleman about it), she indicated that her agency didn't have any jobs that paid enough to warrant me moving to St. Louis...but she did work for a coalition of treatment providers that just received HUD funding to provide substance abuse assessments.

At last – the thing that I had always wanted to do when I was a kid: set up a social service program. Use my clinical skills and learn how to be an administrator. After a few weeks back and forth, and talking with my soon-to-be boss Mike, we set up my first “official” day of work. When that was set, I made arrangements to stay with Craig, set up a day and time for Mom to come down and help move, and that was that.

The move was fraught with some drama (including a cat who needed to be drugged in order to fly on an airplane), but it went off well. After that, it was four days of driving, intermittent radio, gorgeous scenery, corn dogs, and truck-stop cappucinos, and a sixteen-hour dash from Lawrence Kansas to Brentwood. As soon as I arrived, Craig greeted me, and we embraced each other in the warmest bear hug I have ever experienced.

In the days since then, I met the young lady with whom I had spoken – she wasn't blonde, didn't wear glasses, and had no cats, but was a very stunning redhead with an able smile and a slight charm. (And if she's reading – drop me an e-mail, will you? It's been forever, and I owe you lunch). Within four days of my job start, I woke up at 4:00 am on Christmas Eve to drive to Chicago to pick up the kitty. Within six months, I would be in my own apartment, and ready to face whatever challenges lay before me.

Today marks my seventh year in St. Louis.

Today marks my seventh year home.

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